THE POISON TREE

A lurid first hardcover about a renegade IRA unit that— despite the promise of ceasefire talks aimed at bringing peace to Northern Ireland—soldiers on with a mad scheme to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II on her scheduled visit to Los Angeles. At 18, Billy Quinn (whose father was gunned down before his eyes in 1985 Belfast) is a battle-scarred veteran of the IRA's bloody campaigns against the British. Acting on instructions from Michael Kileen (a legendary figure in the Republican Cause), he agrees to participate on a need-to-know basis in what could prove a suicide mission to southern California. The die-hard terrorist Kileen first sends handsome, quick-witted Billy to L.A. to replace Brian O'Malley, the recently orphaned grandson of widower Major James Queally-Smythe, an aging English film director haunted by memories of his estranged daughter and WW II internment by the Japanese. While unsure precisely what his assignment entails, Billy assumes the role of Brian (who has been kidnapped in Ulster). Kileen also dispatches two equally ignorant boyos, thuggish Francis Duffy and dreamy Dermot Tumelty, to L.A. to do the dirtier work his insane plot requires. Meanwhile, charming Billy is accepted without question by the major (who has not seen Brian in over a decade) and makes a name for himself as a lady's man at Pacific Academy. His only real conquest, though, is Kelly Huston, a caring classmate who senses he may have more troubles than the average teenager. When Kileen arrives in L.A., the lads suspect he has more in mind than simply embarrassing the Crown at a reception to honor Queally- Smythe; indeed, they conclude that he means to kill the Queen and leave them holding the bag—or, worse, dead in the resultant carnage. Acting on their own initiative, they frustrate Kileen's best-laid plan at the 11th hour. 'Tis, as the denizens of a Dublin pub might attest with nods and winks, a grand tale.

Pub Date: March 11, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-80214-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1996

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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